The Government Decree No. 82/2011 (V.8.) ("Decree") adopted by the Hungarian Government inter alia has also amended the Government Decree No. 314/2005 (25. XII.) on the environmental impact assessment, which will dramatically increase the number of environmental impact assessments carried out from September.

As of 1 September 2011, the law concerning environmental impact assessments and the integrated environmental licensing process will be changed. Currently, a preliminary environmental impact assessment or an environmental impact assessment is required only in the cases specified in the annex of the relevant decree. However, in the future even in respect of developments which do not fall under the categories of mandatory assessments, a form about the effects on the environment must be completed and submitted with the building permit application. The environmental authority, acting in the building permit procedure as a co-operative specific authority, will then be entitled to require an environmental impact assessment if it finds are necessary based on the submitted form.

Under the previous regulations, if the planned activity exceeded the relevant threshold listed in the annex of the Decree (for example, in the case of hotels, the number of beds exceeded 500; in the case of shopping malls, the total floor area exceeded 10,000 sqm excluding parking places, or the number of parking places exceeded or equals 300), it was compulsory to prepare a preliminary environmental impact assessment or an environmental impact assessment. In accordance with the new rules (which are now harmonised with EU standards), from 1 September 2011 an environmental impact assessment could be required based on the decision of the authority for practically every significant development, regardless of whether the planned activity exceeds the threshold specified in the annex of the Decree.

It is for the environmental authority (as a competent authority) to investigate the extent to which a project is expected to have an impact on the environment. The authority will make its decisions on the basis of the forms submitted by the investors. In this form the investor answers questions about the planned development and the planned remedial measures of such environmental impacts. If the investor is unable to determine the necessary measures and significance of the environmental impact, the authority will be entitled to draw up their own conclusions at their discretion, which will likely be the requirement of an impact study for the sake of caution.

Given the above, it is very likely that the number of environmental impact assessments carried out in Hungary will rise dramatically after 1 September 2011.

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The original publication date for this article was 19/07/2011.